Mississippi reckons with ending pay boost for the unemployed

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A forklift driver moves a pallet of cardboard boxes at Great Southern Industries, a packaging company in Jackson, Miss., says Friday, May 28, 2021. Charita McCarrol, human resources manager at the company, says that she has seen a lot of people abusing the $300-a-week federal supplement for people who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other programs that offered extended support for the unemployed. She also cited the pool of needed certified and experienced forklift drivers and other positions are limited because of the said abuse. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. – Katrina Folks says she has tried everything she can think of to find work since losing her job in September because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 39-year-old mother from Hattiesburg used to do data entry at a law firm, and she has health issues that require her to work from home.

She said she has been doing three interviews a week and bought WiFi and a computer to try to make herself a stronger job candidate. But she hasn't been able to find work that will accommodate her weekly doctor’s appointments.

“Every time I put in an application and they call me, I seem to hit a brick wall,” she said.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced May 10 that Mississippi will opt out of the $300-a-week federal supplement for people who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other programs that offered extended support for the unemployed.

At least 24 Republican-led states in the U.S. have now decided to end federal unemployment benefits early, months before they were set to expire in September 2021. That means millions of people will lose support. People in Mississippi, one of the poorest states in the country with the lowest-paying jobs, will be among the first to lose benefits.

Folks said the governor's decision means her current weekly check of $491 will go down to nothing.

“I’m terrified, to be honest,” Folks said. “I just can’t live off of that.”